Tenants’ Legal Rights in California
California tenants have legal rights that are always present, no matter what the lease agreement says. When trying to evict a tenant, landlords must use the unlawful detainer eviction procedures and not resort to self-help methods. For example, landlords cannot forcibly enter the rental property or use violence or threats. Landlords are also not allowed to hire a locksmith and lock out tenants, to remove tenants’ personal belongings, to cut off utilities and more.
Landlords who use these methods could be liable for the tenants’ actual costs, emotional distress, and civil penalties. Do not let landlords bully or scare you into moving out. You have rights.
Other tenant rights include all of the following:
- Limits on the security deposit amount that the landlord can require from a tenant
- The right to a refund of the security deposit, or a written accounting of how it was used
- Limits on the landlord’s right to enter the rental property
- The landlord must give reasonable advance notice in writing before entering the rental, and can only enter during normal business hours (generally, 8 AM to 5 PM on weekdays)
- No advance written notice is required in case of an emergency, when the tenant has moved of the property, when the tenant is present and consents to the entry, and when the tenant and landlord agree orally in advance to let the owner enter the unit to make repairs
- The right to sue the landlord for violations of the law or the lease agreement
- The right to repair serious defects in the rental property and to deduct certain repair costs from the rent, under appropriate circumstances
- Rights under the warranty of habitability and other repairs
- Protections from discrimination and retaliatory evictions
Tenant’s Answer to the Unlawful Detainer Eviction Lawsuit
When a tenant is facing eviction or has already been served with an unlawful detainer complaint, it is important to seek legal advice from a landlord-tenant eviction lawyer or other legal aid organizations. Your time to respond to the complaint is very short (normally 5 days), and failing to do that may result in a quick eviction from the rental property.
When filing an answer with the court, a tenant may deny the allegations in the landlord’s complaint and also raise legal defenses. Failing to file an answer may result in a default judgment and also in the tenant losing any defenses that he/she may have. Tenants could raise typical applicable defenses such as:
- The 3-day notice to quit demanded more rent than was actually due
- The rent that was owed was offered to the landlord (within the 3-day period) but the landlord refused to accept it
- The eviction is retaliatory in response to the tenant exercising a legal right
- The landlord violated the lease agreement in some way
- The rental property violated the implied warranty of habitability
If you are facing an eviction, you should talk to a landlord-tenant attorney and protect your rights. Evictions could be delayed and sometimes cancelled altogether when tenants have legal representation. Call us today at (213) 316-8844 for a free consultation.